Robin McCabe-Taylor hopes a puppy will help her bond with Molly, the young girl she wants to adopt. But when ex-flame Sam Navarro comes to the rescue with golden retrievers, Robin begins to dream of a family not just with Molly, but with Sam, too.
But is theirs the kind of family Sam wants?
"I need a favor."
Sam Navarro looked at the dark-haired beauty standing in the doorway of the exam room and felt the familiar jolt to his system. It had been five years since he and Robin Taylor had broken up. She'd married someone else. Divorced. Three months ago she had moved onto the ranch next door to his, and had started a business refurbishing old whiskey barrels and wagon wheels. But he hadn't seen her since the move—was she avoiding him?
He'd become a veterinarian, joined a practice in the town where they'd both grown up, and been engaged—twice—to other women. And yet he was still carrying a torch for the slender thirty-two year old with the intense green-blue eyes. Go figure. Sam went back to examining the stray beagle-collie mix someone had brought to the clinic at closing. "I'm listening."
Robin stepped all the way into the exam room, the fragrance of her lilac soap and shampoo overriding the smells of dog, disinfectant and antiseptic. She crossed her arms. "I understand you have a new litter of golden retriever puppies."
Sam stopped to remove a tick, dropping it into a glass tube for later examination. "Born four weeks ago."
Finding the pup in otherwise good health, if a bit on the thin side, Sam led the thirty-five pound stray to the back for a bath and flea treatment.
Robin trailed after them. "I'd like to arrange a visit."
Sam lifted the dog into the tub and secured his lead. "Sorry." He turned on the warm water and used the showerhead to wet down his patient. "The pups from that litter are all spoken for."
Robin leaned against the far wall, her eyes glued to the action. "Oh, I didn't want to buy one. I just wanted to borrow one for a little bit."
"Borrow?" Sam echoed, shampooing the mutt thoroughly.
Robin edged close enough he could feel her body heat and she smiled down at the shivering mutt. "You may have heard I signed up to foster a little girl?"
"Molly Russell." Age eight. "She lost her mom a year and a half ago."
"Right. And since then Molly's been in three different foster homes."
Sam toweled off the dog, and then led him back to the kennels in the back, where full food and water bowls were already waiting. "A shame she wasn't adopted by any of them."
He petted the stray encouragingly, then shut him in his run for the night
"The families all wanted to take Molly in at first," Robin explained.
Sam saw a flash of worry. "But Molly would have none of it."
A brief nod. "The social worker thinks Molly might do better in a single-parent family, since previously she was raised by a single mom."
Ahhh. "Which is where you come in," Sam guessed, not surprised to find that Robin had no more desire to marry than he did.
Robin raked her teeth across her soft lower lip. "And since kids who've encountered difficulties early in life sometimes connect better with animals than humans, I thought having a puppy around might help her adjust."
Sam led the way back to the lobby, switching off lights as he went. "When does Molly move in with you?"
"Saturday afternoon. So what do you think?" she asked. "Can I borrow a puppy just for a little bit?"
Sam shook his head.
Robin looked surprised—as she always did when things did not immediately go her way.
"It would hurt the pup psychologically to be separated from her mother and the rest of the litter," Sam stated soberly. "But you and Molly can come over and visit them if you like. Although I can't say I would recommend that, either."